Monday, June 15, 2015

Govt of India resettling Narmada dam oustees based on "flawed" calculation of possible massive floods in river

Yellow box on left corner suggests flood level at 146.64 metres in 2013
By Rajiv Shah
In a major revelation, an independent Fact-Finding Team on Sardar Sarovar Project's (SSP's) submergence areas has said, on the basis of its recent field visit to SSP-affected villages, that Government of India (GoI) has completely ignored in its calculations several of the areas in Madhya Pradesh which may face massive submergence because of unprecedented floods.
Official calculations have estimated that "backwater levels" because of extraordinay flooding (once in 100 years) in the area on the upstream of Narmada dam, when it reaches the full reservoir level, 138.64 metres, would never go beyond 144.92 metres. Based on this, only those who lived below the 144.92 level were allowed resettlement and rehabilitated.
Finding the calculations flawed, the team, which visited villages situated between Indore and and Badwani off Mumbai-Agra highway, by the banks of Narmada river, said in its report that, contrary to the calculation made by the GoI agency Central Water Commission (CWC), it found even at the present dam height, 121.92 metres, flood levels at Gazipura and Kalghat villages reached 146.64 metres in 2013.
Earlier in 1994, when the dam's height was still lower, 90 metres, flood levels reached 148.80 metres. And, when the dam's construction had still not begun, in 1984, the flood levels had reached 150.34 metres. Based on the CWC's estimation, the Narmada Control Authority allowed rehabilitation of only up to 144.92 metres.
The team, which consisted of two experts and politicians belonging to opposition Communist and Congress parties, and visited the Narmada valley in May second week, said in its report that the year 2013 was "not even a high flood year and still flood levels reached 146.64 meters which is much higher than the estimated 144.92 meters that CWC has calculated for an extraordinary flooding situation where input will be equal to 24,000 cusecs."
Those who formed part of the team included Hannan Mollah, eight time member of Parliament of the CPI-M; Annie Raja, general secretary of the National India Federation of Women in India; Vinay Bishwom, former forest minister from Kerala; Raj Kachroo, well known hydrologist; and Soumya Dutta, well known expert on energy and climate issues. Panchilal Meda (former MLA, Dharampuri, Dhar Dist) and Ramesh Patel (sitting MLA, Badwani constituency) of Congress also joined the team.
The official 144.92 backwater mark under extraordinary flooding outside
the temple in Ghazipura village
Illustrating its findings on the basis of photographs, which showed where the floods had reached in the past, the team said, it found real danger to Ghazipura, "a settlement inhabited mostly by poor fisher-people and artisanal workers." One has only to see "two pictures, where it is clearly seen that the houses are below the back water levels reached (and marked on pillars) even in normal years, of 146 M (even with the present dam height of 121.92 M)", it added.
The team found that "Ghazipura houses got inundated during the last two years due to high flood levels, causing massive disruptions and losses for nearly three months each year. Walls collapsed and brick kilns got washed off. Small shops got destroyed along with the materials." It added, "One can easily imagine what will be the extent of submergence when the discharge is higher."
The team regretted, "Most of the 48 houses of Ghazipura a mohalla of Khalghat and Shala bastis, mohallas of Sala village are now below the regular bac water level at anything above moderate discharge levels. The houses at Khalghat are clearly seen to be below the marked high water levels, but these families are not recognized as project affected."
The team observed, "With the construction now at an advanced stage for piers and bridge structures over the dam, and installing gates for taking the height to 138.64 metres, the backwater levels here are sure to climb much higher, possibly inundating whole of Ghazipura, as well as Khalghat, which is a township like big village, and yet they have not been recognized as being completely in the submergence zone!"
The team concluded, "Non-recognition as project affected/non-inclusion in submergence zone/wrong determination of backwater levels – this was found to be a very serious complaint by a large number of people/ families." As a result, it added, "Large number of people/families, the team met, complained that they were unfairly excluded from being declared as project affected people (PAFs)."

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